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Grow with Grunder: Why memorable traditions create great places to work

September 19, 2022 -  By
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Sheila Boggs, Chris Williams, Carynell Carlton, Taylor Milliken and Tina Kizer of Milosi gave Grow! 2022 attendees a snapshot of their business. (Photo: LM Staff)

Hands down, one of the best things you can do to improve and grow your landscape company is to go out and visit other operations. The best way to generate ideas that lead to breakthroughs in our businesses is to see our peers live and in person. It’s often how I get the best ideas for improving my own business.

That’s why my favorite part of our annual Grow! conference is the behind-the-scenes company tour. In 2023, that tour will take us to Summit Landscape and Design outside of San Antonio, Texas. This company started out similar to many of ours, as a one-person home-schooling project more than 20 years ago. It has grown into a multimillion-dollar business, led by brothers Josiah and Jonathan Peterson.

I’ve known Josiah and Jonathan for years as we’ve worked with them through our ACE Peer Group Program, and each time I talk with them, I’m energized by the way the Peterson brothers recognize their teams’ accomplishments.

Little things

I think we handle employee recognition pretty well at Grunder Landscaping Co., but we’re always trying to get better. Here are a few things we do:

  • Provide reserved parking spaces for team members who have been at the company for three years or longer.
  • Acknowledge birthdays, work anniversaries and jobs well done in our private Facebook group.
  • Sing happy birthday during the morning huddle to team members with birthdays that day.
  • Host food trucks with snacks, sweets or dinner on Fridays throughout the summer.

I’m proud of the ways we recognize team members, but I love learning about how other companies celebrate their people within the framework of their own vision, mission and core values.

Unforgettable traditions

At Summit, the Peterson brothers have created a few quirky traditions that have become cultural touchstones at their company. These are the kinds of things, when paired with market-leading pay policies, benefits, incentives and safety practices, create a company culture where people want to work.

One of these traditions is Summit’s employee referral program. As an incentive for referring a new hire, the company pays the referring team member $600. But the Petersons have added their own twist: It’s $600 in $2 bills. Why? It’s memorable. Every time someone spends a $2 bill, they will think about the company.

Another tradition at Summit is Weenie Wednesday. When a crew comes in under its budgeted hours, Summit rewards the whole team with a hot dog roast, complete with Jonathan in a hot dog costume serving up the meal.

The company also honors team member anniversaries in a memorable, public way. Summit rewards those celebrating anniversaries with plaques and a $100 bill per year of tenure publicly during the morning circle.

The Petersons say the key to recognition programs is to incentivize what you value and celebrate those wins as a team. While profitability is the goal of any business, and it’s even a core value at Summit, they know it can’t be just about profits.

“If you make it about your team members’ success and enjoying what they do and why they do it, profitability will happen,” Jonathan Peterson says. “It really does come down to how much you care about your team and how you’re treating them.”

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to learn firsthand from the Peterson brothers and hear from other GROW! attendees about how they recognize and reward employees for jobs well done when we’re in San Antonio Feb. 28-March 2, 2023.

To learn more about GROW! and register at the early-bird rate by Nov. 1, visit here.

Marty Grunder

About the Author:

Marty Grunder is president and CEO of Grunder Landscaping Co. and The Grow Group, based in Dayton, Ohio.

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